screenhunter_23_aug._21_14.12_400As vets await checks, VA workers get $24M bonuses

By KIMBERLY HEFLING, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – Outside the Veterans Affairs Department, severely wounded veterans have faced financial hardship waiting for their first disability payment. Inside, money has been flowing in the form of $24 million in bonuses.

In scathing reports this week, the VA’s inspector general said thousands of technology office employees at the VA received the bonuses over a two-year period, some under questionable circumstances. It also detailed abuses ranging from nepotism to an inappropriate relationship between two VA employees.

The inspector general accused one recently retired VA official of acting "as if she was given a blank checkbook" as awards and bonuses were distributed to employees of the Office of Information and Technology in 2007 and 2008. In some cases the justification for the bonuses was inadequate or questionable, the IG said.


The official, Jennifer S. Duncan, also engaged in nepotism and got $60,000 in bonuses herself, the IG said. In addition, managers improperly authorized college tuition payments for VA employees, some of whom were Duncan’s family members and friends. That cost taxpayers nearly $140,000.

Separately, a technology office employee became involved in an "inappropriate personal relationship" with a high-level VA official. The technology office employee flew 22 times from Florida to Washington, where the VA official lived. That travel cost $37,000.

The details on the alleged improprieties were in two IG reports issued this week. VA spokeswoman Katie Roberts said the agency was extremely concerned about the IG’s findings and would pursue a thorough review.

"VA does not condone misconduct by its employees and will take the appropriate correction action for those who violate VA policy," Roberts said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

On Friday, Joe Davis, a spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said if the allegations are found to be true, individuals involved should lose their jobs, and legal action should be taken.

"America’s veterans served their nation honorably and with no expectations of reward," Davis said in an e-mail. "It should not be too much to ask for that same level of commitment from government employees, too."

And Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the top Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said Congress should investigate.

The number of claims the VA needs to process has escalated, and the Information and Technology Office has a critical role in improving the technological infrastructure to handle the increase. President Barack Obama has said creating a seamless transition for records between the Pentagon and the VA could help eliminate a backlog that has left some veterans waiting months for a disability check.

Much of the IG’s focus was on Duncan, the former executive assistant to the ex-assistant secretary for information and technology, Robert Howard.

In one situation, a part-time intern with connections to Duncan was allowed to convert to a full-time paid position even though the individual was working a part-time schedule 500 miles away at college, the IG said.

"We have never known of any other new VA employee provided such favorable treatment," the IG said.

The individual’s name and relationship to Duncan was blacked out, as were many other names in the reports.

Investigators recommended that the employees who received the college money pay it back. The largest amount awarded was $33,000.

In addition to Duncan, three other high-level employees received $73,000, $58,000 and $59,000 in bonuses in 2007 and 2008, the IG said. In 2007 alone, 4,700 employees were awarded bonuses, on average $2,500 each.

Some employees were given cash awards for services that were supposedly provided before the employees started working at VA, the IG said.

A man who answered the phone at Duncan’s residence in Rehoboth Beach, Del., said she was not available, and he said not to call back.

The IG also found that Katherine Adair Martinez, deputy assistant secretary for information protection and risk management in the Office of Information and Technology, misused her position, abused her authority and engaged in prohibited personnel practices when she influenced a VA contractor and later VA subordinates to employ a friend.

The IG also said Martinez "took advantage of an inappropriate personal relationship" with Howard to transfer her job to Florida. In the nine months after she moved, the IG said Martinez traveled to Washington 22 times "to accomplish tasks that she could easily do from Florida."

The relationship between Martinez and Howard started in April 2007 and continued several months after Howard left the VA in January of this year, the IG said.

Roberts’ e-mail did not address a request from the AP to speak with Martinez. Howard could not be immediately located for comment.

Indiana Rep. Steve Buyer, top Republican on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, urged quick action to fix the problems. "VA must appoint honorable individuals to these critical positions," he said.

The VA has faced criticism before in its awarding of bonuses. In 2007, the AP reported that the then-VA secretary had approved a generous package of more than $3.8 million in bonus payments in 2006, citing a need to retain longtime VA executives.


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21 Responses to "VA $24 MILLION BONUS SCANDAL"

  1. Kace Jonez  January 2, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Please write to me at [email protected]. I am in a compensation case and va ignores all evidence, ignores due process and duty to assist and all
    va advocates, supposedly on my side, seem to secretly be working for va.
    I need to link to active vet forums. I am now living in Philippines and in need of sane, honest counsel. Thanks in advance

  2. HawkShock  September 22, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    Unreal. We filed almost 5 years ago and am just next month ‘supposedly’ geting a ratings decision and I find out that Vets who are abused by the VA system and employees have been raping our benefits for their own gain.

  3. Caleb  September 10, 2009 at 11:51 pm

    If you are stuck in an investigation, follow the money. A list of bonuses paid out to VA employees for a specific period can be obtained through a FOIA request. That disclosure would sure point to the beneficiaries of this recent VA fiasco and should lead to prosecutions if VA leadership has any gonads.
    The Washington Post availed themselves of this tidbit of information for a number of years but got cold feet back a few years ago.

  4. Jim Davis, Veterans-For-Change  August 24, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    What I still don’t understand, is this is not the first time this story has come to light, and yet veterans nationwide sit back and say or do nothing.

    Veterans are lying in pain, to sick to do anything and waiting on benefits that may never come to them in their time of need, yet the VA can sit back and fork over millions of dollars on bonuses esp. to those who haven’t earned a dime and millions of claims sit in limbo.

    The VA claimed they had hired some 2,000 people to process claims, and it takes two years to complete the training. So where are these people at over two and a half years later and why are the numbers of claims and appeals growing every week?

    Vets, spouses, widows, family members, friends of veterans all need to start becoming active in their own benefits, services, facilities, medical care and not sit back and take this kind of egregious continual mistakes.

    Start contacting your Congressman and Senators and demanding they take aggressive and immediate action to stop this nonsense immediately and focus those funds on veterans benefits and needs!

    Or join an advocacy group and fight like hell demanding Congress step up to the plate to insure President Obama’s last two speeches on Veterans are upheld to the highest level ever!

    Jim Davis
    [email protected]

  5. Robert Lee Mason  August 24, 2009 at 11:43 am

      This problem starts locally at VA Hospitals and goes to the Regional Offices then to DC. I started a comlaint agains a doctor at the VAH here in Cleveland, she was incharge of C&P exams. I provided evidence of her corruption and instead of firing her they let her retire with a VA retirment pension.?????

       The system is so corrupt that if I ask a question on the VA main website, the answer I get back Is veteran is in a no reply status.?????

         While these people and I use that term loosley are get bonus ,some of us raised four children on nothing as the VA illegally withheld records from us and our service reps. So far I can’t find any other veterans who had this problem, records on which when finally released 28 years later got me rated at 100%, even though the VA had illegally withheld these records with a rubber stamp which read : NOT TO BE GIVEN TO THE VETERAN OR HIS SERVICE REPRESENATIVE. This is a clear violation of the Privacy Act and the FOI appeals section.

         The VA did this dispite the fact even the company I worked for sent in documentation that it was my service connected injuries that caused me to medically retire. I used the information from my VA records that I could get and fought Social Security and won. But the VA says I as only 10% disabled, this was because the evidence in my C file was stamped with the stamp of NOT TO BE GIVE4N TO THE VETERAN OR HIS SERVICE REP. just for the record when I got these records finally in 1997 by using an attorney I went to a congressman and he asked the regional Office in St. Petersburg about them and he was told by the director of the regional Office (NO SUCH RECORDS EXISTED IN MY FILE), even though we had coipes of them with this stamp>????

         Lie, lie as to deny.

           If any other veteran has records with this stamp on them I’d like to hear from you at [email protected]. Mosy veterans wouldn’t know these records existed if they didn’t use an attorney.

    I was told by a smart mouthed DRo her in the Cleveland area that this was done to many Vietnam Era veterans, so if your claim was denied especially for PTSD check out if your records have this stamp on them Please.

  6. GI Joe  August 24, 2009 at 7:27 am

    I worked for the VA IT center in Austin TX. The rot was down to that level also. I had to quit because of the lack of morals there. They gave big bonuses to friends and screwed the workers. They would set people up to be scape goats and blame others for their own failures. They would lie and collude. It is like working for the CIA during the 1950 through 1975 era.

  7. Charlie  August 23, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    KIMBERLY let me help you out–“In one situation, a part-time intern with connections to Duncan was allowed to convert to a full-time paid position even though the individual was working a part-time schedule 500 miles away at college, the IG said. THE PERSON ID IN THE REPORT IS DUNCAN’S SON–Doug Duncan—I work in the VA and I am familiar with all of this–I can be of great help.

  8. VA Employee  August 23, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    You are correct–VA IT is broken and each and every one of the Senior Executives from the last administration need to go. They were all hired illegally and have no love for Veterans. 75% or more are not even veterans. Most of them just had a retreat in Cleveland spending even more VA funds where Mrs. Martinez was a participant–what is going on?

  9. happy  August 23, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    We need to look even deeper–former VA Deputy Secretary Gordon Mansfield, Former Chief of Staff Tom Bowman (now in Florida after he transfer himself after the Bush administration lost) Former General Counsel Paul Hutter–all knew about Mr. Howard’s dirty relationships and agreed in the transfer of Mrs. Martinez to Florida. Also why is Mr Stephen Warren–Mr. Howard’s Deputy not investigated?–he was there the full time–what was he doing? I full commission needs to handle this matter–is that big.

  10. jeff  August 23, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the top Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said Congress should investigate. That’s a joke, right?

    Richard Burr is the top Republican on the committee and has been for the last few years of the Bush administration which means HE was the person who should have been watching the VA. He should have seen the $24 million in bonus payment requests come through his committee but he and his staff just missed it?

    The Bush VA appointee was the person who was handing out bonuses “like there was a blank checkbook” …. according to the inspector general

    Why was the report hidden from Obama VA appointees for 6 months and then released on a Friday afternoon in August?

    This is just more Bush administration incompetence coming out after they all walked away….

  11. duffster  August 22, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    VA policy is to consider HIPAA as not applying to them.  HIPAA is very weak.  Read it.


  12. Glenn  August 22, 2009 at 12:15 am

    Hey Edwin, good work on those SPN codes man! You are a trailblazer. Ive been saying since 2000 that the “service orgs” are nothing but toadies for the corrupt VA. Strip them of their charter immediately. I think the only one worth its salt is the Viet Nam Veterans of America, but didnt they just get their Congressional charter too? Anyhow, someone start a petition, Ill sign it!

  13. Glenn  August 22, 2009 at 12:12 am

    I would like everyone to take a moment to understand something, please. We can all safely assume this sort of corruption was going in at the VA for the Bush and Clinton presidencies, right? A total of 12 odd years? Well, why is it that Obama has been in office for a mere 8 months, and its been one earth shattering VA expose after another. And it all began with the VA IG starting the ball rolling with the shredder scandal. Something we ALL knew was happening. Americans, thanks to Bush, have finally gotten wise to the perpetual scams flowing from DC and have had enough. Lets all REJOICE when we see corrupt VA officials getting their asses handed to them. Obama is the best thing thats happened to veterans since Reagan. Does that make Obama a saint? Of course not! But lets at least give the guy credit where credit is due. We now have a climate where we can actually clean house at the VA and elsewhere, and its been a long, LONG time since thats happened.

  14. locdoc  August 21, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    The reason there is such a backlog, is that they will get more money to take care of the backlog, but insted of taking care of the backlog they give themselves big bonuses and then ask for more money to take care of the backlog. This goes on and on.

  15. EDWIN CROSBY III  August 21, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    With BILLIONS of DOLLARS available to steal, the American Legion & VFW for decades have looked the other way, ignored veterans pleas of corruption within V.A. The CONGRESS of the United States should REVOKE the CHARTER of these 2 organizations FOR NOT being veteran service organizations. How can all these criminal acts coming to light have gone on for years without colusion on the part of higher ups within veteran service organizations. We know they were told to keep their mouths shut or start paying for that office space in VARO’s and FREE phone service. WHAT A SELL OUT !! The chickens have come home to roost !!!

  16. Level-Travis  August 21, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    This is the reason why my husband claim have been denied for 20 years. Just in case you forgot the Gulf War started back in 1991 and
    now it is2009.

  17. james c contarino  August 21, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    yes thats great give them bonuses for denying as many claims as possible. also to linger claims as lonb as they can by denial so veterans have to appeal which adds years to their claims. but give them those bonuses .
    oh as far as records they probably lost lots more than they said they is a shame how they get bonuses for losing our records a denying our claims or losing and destroying what they can.
    yes thats a great new va you got there secretary shinseki.

  18. SSG Lem Genovese USA/Retired 91B  August 21, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    More of the same from the DVA. Instead of modernizing and streamlining the adjudication process for the backlog of veterans disability claims, the executives give each other bonuses for merely doing their jobs. Instead of rewarding whistle blowers and innovators with promotions and commendations with a percentage of the money their concepts have saved the taxpayers , they pat themselves on the back for being in charge when its their underlings that deserve all the credit.
    Why should they be any different than EnRon, Blackwater, AIG, Chrysler or
    General Motors ?
    If the VA were to be investigated for its hiring practices, allowing “quacks” to practice medicine, the inability to allow “due process” in claims adjudication,
    benign oversight of trends like suicide and its inability to share vital data with other
    government departments like Health, Education & Welfare, the Justice Department, the GAO & OMB AND the DoD, then why shouldn’t DVA executives give each other undeserved and superfluous bonuses ?

  19. Marc C. Daniele  August 21, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    I wonder if this is the same as the VHA that is supposd to investigate HIPAA Violations by employees, and protect veterans private records? I say this because I have had HIPAA violations, fraud, illegal drugs usage by employees, etc., etc. covered-up by the St. Louis VA Medical Centers, and VHA! This has to do with a Pharmacy Tech Illegally accessing mine, and another veterans personal medical records in five months for her own personal gain, fraud, etc. A Pharmacy Tech is not supposed to by law, be able to access veterans diagnosises, dates hospitalized, reasons for hospitalizations, and ammendments made to their medical records about hospitalizations! Not to mention facts about a veteran receiving an increase in VA disability rating and backpay!
    What’s worse is when criminal employees are protected over the actual veterans they were established to care for!

  20. Notorious Kelly  August 21, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Take a hint from our government: sometimes violence IS the answer.

  21. Mike  August 21, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    With people like this being exposed we can only hope that what is happening to Veterans land in California will also become better public knowledge to be answered for.

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